Help! The Holes Are in All the Wrong Places! (Or, The Skill Set Disconnect)

I'm really much older than I look. Chicks and hot tub, here I come!

This morning, Mbot was dawdling. He is three and the very best place to be when you are three, apparently, is naked on the living room rug arguing with your brother over who has custody of the extra-pointy Magna-tiles. Why hurry?

I had been asking him to put on his Captain America underpants for fifteen minutes while I cleaned up from breakfast. From the kitchen, I witnessed a few good starts, with Captain America face down on the floor, like we’d practiced, so that the underpants looked like Mbot was already in them, but invisible. Then I could see feet in the air, the flash of a red leg band entangled in toes, and then when I’d go out to help himMbot finish getting dressed, Captain America would be mysteriously balled up several feet away from the action.

Hoping to go out and make the most of a beautiful morning (and under the pressure that only an adult raised in the North, who knows that these mornings are numbered, probably numbered in numbers even Bots can count to, before the monstrous summer heat descends), I tried to hurry things up. I said that we could not go out to play if we did not put our underpants on. I said that I had my underpants on. That Gbot had his baby version of underpants on. Even Daddy at work had his underpants on. Etc., etc.

“But Mom!” Mbot wailed. “I can’t put them on! It’s too complicated!”

Well, at least he could articulate his issue.

My issue, on the other hand, is that it’s easy for me to forget that Mbot isn’t nearly as old as he sounds. Yesterday after brushing his teeth, he told me he “did it properly” and then asked to go to the playground, the one “without too much equipment.”

I sat down on the rug and we put them on together.

Sometimes, even superhero underpants need a helping hand.

Fine then, I'm only three. Mom, drop that camera and get over here!

I Cheerfully Accept the Versatile Blogger Award as My Airspace Fills with Flying Dinosaurs

Six months into my blog-o-rama, I received this Versatile Blogger Award. Woohoo! Thanks for the nomination, iGameMom!

There are 3 rules for accepting this award:

1. Thank the award-givers and link back to them in your post: iGameMom

2. Share 7 things about yourself.

  • I am 5’10”.
  • I am 44.
  • My Bots are 3 3/4 and 2 1/2 (except for Husbot, who just turned 49, the dog, 12, and the antique cat, 16). The math shows that I’m tired.
  • Last week, while driving the Bots in my parents’ car on vacation in Idaho, I got pulled over for going my age in a 35-mph zone. We got off with a friendly warning and two golden Junior Sheriff stickers, which blew any chance I had of keeping my speeding a secret from Nanny and Poppy.
  • Conversation in my house at this moment: Mbot: “Mom, I’m saying ‘asparagus,’ and my brother is laughing.’ His brother is standing in his crib giggling and banging his head against the wall. It is Quiet Time here like ketchup is a vegetable. Mbot now has tossed Baxter, his stuffed moose, over the back of the sofa. “I can’t say ‘asparagus’ now cuz I lost my moose.’ In the background, “The Flower Duet” from Leo Delibes’ opera Lakme gives the false impression that there are people in the room who are calm.
  • I love discovering new blogs–there are so many fascinating and funny ones–but seriously, who has time to read them, especially new Mombots out there? I am flabbergasted and flattered that my readers are….reading.
  • Every time we drive anywhere now, Gbot says, “Mommy, you are dwiving toooo faaassst!” I would like to think this is the fault of the friendly if overzealous policewoman we met on Thursday, but maybe it is not.

3. Pass this award along to 15 other bloggers.

I am working on this one. It is a fun project, but also a big challenge, since it’s all I can do to find time to actually write my posts. I just visited The Good Greatsby (the daddy blogger of 230,187 hits), and he is seriously hilarious, but when I read that he’s at his computer sixteen hours a day, his bona-fide-ness as a daddy blogger kind of lost its bonafidity. At the computer sixteen hours a day? If I blew myself up for the Jihad, that’s where I would go instead of to the place with the seventy-two virgins. I’m overstating my point, of course, because the weeBots are my path to immortality and joy, but good god, is a one-hour quiet time without two potty emergencies, three unauthorized naked-butt incidents, four projectile-bombing of brothers with Magna-tiles, five crib escapes, six sofa mutinies, and an owie too much to ask?*

*The numbers in this account have been D’Agata-ed.**

**Dag-at-‘uhd (verb): from the noun “D’Agata,” the surname of editor and lyric essayist John D’Agata, whose tenuous grip on reality, ethics, and math has enjoyed much recent publicity.

And so I will nominate fellow Versatile Bloggers as I discover them; it’s my hope to add to the list weekly. I am happily able to name four today, while, now, a giant Tyrannasaurus Rex is flying through the airspace in my living room. If I stop to think of more, someone might get hurt.

Vivid Living “Life in full bloom, thorns and all”…Nancy Sharp’s articulate insights are always inspiring, often awe-inspiring.

Braided Brook Russ Beck and Dylan Klempner edit this wonderful site that features personal essays from a variety of talented authors. Submissions accepted.

The Middlest Sister Nicole Belanger Smeltzer has probably been nominated many times over for her fabulous cut-and-paste comics. She’s been Freshly Pressed (which doesn’t always mean greatness, but she is all the good things we imagine when we think of FP). I see she now has a contract with a literary agent, too–hooray!

Simplicity Mom Stephanie Green is one of those people who seem to defy the laws of time, space, and economics. She moms, wifes, gardens, sews, cooks, cans, disciplines, diets, reads, socializes (and must sleep somewhere in there), and writes about it. Now that I’ve thought about all that, I have to go take a nap. Apparently I am the only one in this household who needs one.

Idaho Vacation, Part 4: Descent into Madness

In the darkness of 6:15 a.m. in my parents’ guest room, my cell phone alarm rescued me from a dream in which I had very strange neighbors and was worried about killing a houseplant because I’d forgotten to water it. I awoke to two weeBots sleeping nearby, both of whom I’d soon be responsible for getting onto and off of two airplanes without letting them starve, dehydrate, melt down, fall down an escalator, put a hand in a public toilet, or get lost. Reality wasn’t too far removed from the subconscious version, except in real life, my roommates were shorter and even stranger than my neighbors, and the stakes were higher.

Less than two hours later, The Guru (that would be Dad) and I lugged my retinue to the car (two boys, two bears, two bags, two carry-ons–The Guru likened us to Noah’s Ark and I suddenly wondered if the actual flood had been the least of Noah’s worries).

Everything went brilliantly, with the exception of a phone call as we were stepping out the door, which my mother answered, to hear a voice saying, “This is an automated call from Delta with information about your cancelled flight.”

My mother called to me in a voice in which disbelief battled with horror.

And then she started laughing. “Well of course I believed you! It’s happened before!” she wailed with relief into the phone.

The call was from my sister, Susan.

Susan figured that if The Guru had answered the phone, he would have just hung up and dropped us at the airport anyway, vanishing in a burst of battery power. But Nanny answered it, and, when she didn’t recognize her firstborn’s version of an automated voice, my sister fell victim to her own success and collapsed in fits of hilarity at her own hilariousness. This sort of occurrence is common in my family.
The skies were clear. We arrived at the airport well ahead of take-off time. At security, Mbot loaded Junepbear into a plastic bin and then Sprucebear into a plastic bin and then Gbot’s coat into a plastic bin. The fifty-minute flight to Salt Lake City was preternaturally uneventful. Mbot stared at photos from the movie in the dog-eared paperback 1977 edition of Star Wars that Nanny had conjured from the attic. He pushed the buttons on his armrest and pretended he was an astronaut. Gbot colored and ate Goldfish.
In the Salt Lake City airport, I paid for the calm with Bots Running Wild–partially my fault: I chose a decaf mocha over full control (holding a coffee cup leaves you one-handed). On the ninety-minute flight to Phoenix, while Mbot watched Tom and Jerry chase each other on the DVD screen, Gbot played with the in-case-of-emergency folder in the seat pocket in front of him and then I had to make up a lie about why there was a picture of fire in it. (Someone was blowing a cigarette (Bot-speak) and that’s against the rules.) I actually opened up my computer and was able to work for nineteen minutes (first time on a flight since Mbot was born. I was feeling Good. I was feeling In Control. ) Then Gbot’s apple juice spilled and then the seatbelt sign came on, which initiated an extremely loud ten-minute rebellion on the part of a damp and apply-smelling Gbot against his seat belt during descent. I arrived at Sky Harbor Airport without Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
We joyfully reunited with Husbot, who carried his long lost Bots and promised to play their favorite game, Hide From the Dragon.
Then he drove us all back home, at which point I was plunged back into real life: how were we going to deal with the dog’s persistent rug-soiling, the dishwasher’s sudden and mysterious leak, and the antique cat’s new adoption of the dining table as a bed?
Walking in the door, I found the contents of the bathroom drawers piled on my side of the bed (Husbot had been cleaning–difficult to complain…), and Husbot mentioned several home-improvement plans that require further lengthy discussion, particularly on the subject of budgetary constraints, and the pile of mortgage paperwork awaits. The anchors of responsibility. I feel an extremely loud sputterfuss coming on as I descend into my daily life. I do not want to remain securely seated; I want to jump up and find the aisle and run free.
Not completely free, of course. I don’t want to get lost.
And that’s the alternative.
How do you feel when you get home from vacation?

Idaho Vacation, Part 3: Han Solo Will Never Need Botox

This Lego action figurine does not come with interchangeable gray hair.

Due to more snow, our flight last night did not even take off from Twin Falls, eighty miles away–it was cancelled altogether. But while we’re here, we’re doing as the locals do.

Last week we went to Tuesday Science Story Hour at the Ketchum Children’s Library. Miss Ann, an ageless font of knowledge about the natural world, anchors a circle of usually over twenty preschoolers and mesmerizes all present with books, felt board demonstrations, fossils, more recent skeletons like that of a mouse, found in her neighbor’s attic, and a dehydrated chipmunk, courtesy of her neighbor’s cat. The last time we went, in August, Miss Ann brought a lizard of some kind, and meal worms for him to eat. Someone had made the mistake of feeding the lizard beforehand, though, and the meal worms lived to see another day.

This week, Miss Ann brought Jaja the hamster.

Everyone got to feel how fluffy Jaja was; I felt lucky to escape without Mbot insisting we take Jaja home with us.

Meanwhile, Gbot had other things to attend to. After circumnavigating the library at a run (trying to catch him between the shelves was like racing down the corridors of the Death Star in search of a way out), he discovered a side room in which an older kid, too old, apparently, for Miss Ann and Jaja, was examining a pop-up Star Wars book.

The older kid took great pleasure in describing, in appropriately hushed tones, each character and pop-up setting. Most of it was news to me because, although I’ve seen the first four episodes–the original as an eleven-year old in 1978 nine months after it opened–and have watched the original many times over, I intentionally missed the final two. I was just not interested in armies of computer-generated organisms fighting epic battles. I think I wanted to hold onto my memories of a young Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher.

Then the big kid turned to the page with Han Solo. Gbot and I stared, fascinated.

Matthew Reinhart's "Star Wars Guide to the Galaxy"

I’m willing to bet we were fascinated for different reasons.

I was struck as though by a light saber by the fact that Han Solo hasn’t aged.

And at the same time, I was struck by the fact that I have.

It wasn’t about recognizing my own mortality–I got that when I became pregnant with Mbot and felt, as I never had before, how necessary I was for the life growing inside me, but how expendable I was, too, creating my own replacement. No, this moment with Han Solo had to do with how immortal he was. He hasn’t aged one day since 1977.

This week, I rediscovered fairy tales in the books my mother had saved from my own childhood, and so I was primed to consider how George Lucas is the twentieth-century Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Anderson. How Han Solo will live, brown-haired and wrinkle-free (alongside Harry Potter) for centuries beyond my allotted maybe-four-score-plus-maybe. How I had witnessed the birth of this fairy tale, and how much power these immortal stories hold, a literary web we take for granted that connects us and our children not just to each other but to our past.

I was able to get seats for us on a flight on Friday. We are crossing our fingers. Maybe one cool thing about the Millennium Falcon is that it can land in snow?

Idaho Vacation, Part 2: We’re Still HEEEErrrre

We are not inside the cute and cozy Hailey Coffee Company. We are in the parking lot, sleeping off our busy morning.

We had such good fortune on the trip here that I thought we had outrun the Greek Chorus. But it turns out they were rolling in on a weather front. Sun Valley Ski Resort has been waiting for this front since 2006. It arrived two days after we arrived, and nestled snuggly into the Wood River Valley. It has snowed, it has rained, it has sleeted, it has hailed. We have not seen blue sky–or even the surrounding mountains–for a week. Except for the fact that my parents are here and the fact that we have built a snowman, we could be vacationing in our closet.

My parents’ presence is key–Nanny is so wonderful and helpful with the Bots that it’s exhausting even to think of her energy expenditure. “I’ll sit down on Monday,” she kept saying, citing the day after our scheduled departure. But nobody counted on the weather.

Planes fly in this weather, even thirty-seat turbo-props, the kind that jump up from Salt Lake City, but they do not land in this weather, and they do not take off. Locals (of which I was one, for ten years) know that, between the months of November and April, you take your chances when you schedule a flight into or out of Hailey’s tiny airport. If you are flying Delta, one of the two airlines that service the airport, you may receive a call four hours before your flight is scheduled to leave. A friendly voice notifies you that you must be at the airport three hours ahead of flight time so that you can take a bus to Twin Falls, eighty miles east, and fly to Salt Lake City from there.

This is inconvenient but it gets you where you want to go, except if you have children. Because the bus, of course, is not equipped with car seats or the LATCH system.

Then you are at the mercy of kind relatives (or relatives who really want to see you go), who may taxi you an hour and a half through the fog and across the slushy prairie to the next airport. But planes sometimes leave late from Twin Falls, and we had just thirty minutes to catch the last flight of the day to Phoenix. A drive across the prairie, AND a night in Salt Lake City?

Everyone else thought it was wind in the trees, but I know I could hear the Greek Chorus chanting,

And she made reservations on the last flight,

And if she didn’t make it, she would have to spend the night,

A thirty-minute layover would not be enough,

Even if Husbot were helping, it still would have been tough.

It is hard to feel sorry for her stressing and her strife,

Has she never traveled in her life?

(Husbot, on whom the success of the thirty-minute layover kind of depended, had to return to work on Tuesday.)

Nanny suggested I call Delta and see if they would postpone our flights, due to the lack of LATCH on the bus. I was skeptical, but Nanny Knows.

The Delta representative, with her faint Bangalore accent, got us on a flight out Tuesday, the day the front is supposed to move on. She didn’t charge us the $150 per ticket change fee; in fact, Gbot and I got $10 back apiece.

And so we are still here. Because our timeshare was for a week, we’ve moved into Nanny and Poppy’s guest room. We are trying to be helpful and useful, but having us as visitors is like inviting Hurricane WeeBot into your home, even if we behave ourselves.

After lunch, I bundled everyone up to go to the store, just to get them out of the house. On the way, they fell asleep. I’m parked outside of Hailey Coffee Company, pirating the wifi.

I hope Nanny is at home, sitting down. Although I love it here, and the Bots love Nanny and Poppy, and Nanny and Poppy love the Bots, if the weather doesn’t clear by Tuesday, someone will probably volunteer to drive us to Twin Falls.


Overcast with Rain Showers and a 100% Chance of Magna-Tiles

We have beaten the odds. Idaho’s Wood River Valley receives an average of 250 days of sunshine annually. Anyone who lives here will tell you that it feels like a whole lot more. This is, after all, home to the famous Sun Valley Ski Resort. But anyone who visits when we visit will tell you it feels like a whole lot less. tells the dismal story:

snow Overcast with snow showers and rain showers in the morning, then mostly cloudy with rain showers. High of 41F. Winds from the WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation 90% with accumulations up to 2 in. possible.
Friday Night
nt_snow Mostly cloudy with snow showers in the evening, then overcast with snow showers and rain showers. Low of 30F. Winds less than 5 mph. Chance of snow 80%.
snow Overcast with snow showers and rain showers, then rain showers in the afternoon. High of 41F. Winds from the East at 5 to 10 mph shifting to the SE in the afternoon. Chance of precipitation 90% .
Saturday Night
nt_chancesnow Overcast with a chance of snow and rain showers. Low of 25F. Winds from the NE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of snow 50% with accumulations up to 1 in. possible.

We did build a snowman, and have a snowball fight, and go sledding. Pictures to come. But we have spent an inordinate amount of time indoors. This morning, I mopped up the bathroom floor of potty and bathwater and failed to get the TV to work (Bot fingers busily pushing buttons has rendered both TVs useless for anything but The Aristocats–normally I wouldn’t mind, but today, on the fifth day of rain or rainish snow or snowy rain, I am ready to embrace television).

Then, thankfully, Mbot found Vivaldi on the portable tape deck, and both Bots twirled to Spring. Spring looks better on the inside than it does out our sliding glass door. Gbot twirled a rubber ducky, and Mbot made his articulated action figure, Ironman, jig across the end table. Ironman’s got some moves.

And now we’re off to the Starbucks. Again. Because at the Starbucks, in addition to cocoa, there are Magna-Tiles.

Magna-Tiles are the best building system invented since the Lego, although I’m fond of Trios, too.

They’re translucent plastic tiles in four shapes: squares, right triangles, equilateral triangles, and isosceles triangles (for those of you who don’t remember eighth grade geometry, those are the ones with two sides the same length). They are magnetized along their edges. Better yet, they magnetize preschoolers, toddlers, and parents alike. I had to come to terms with the destruction of my model of Notre Dame so that Mbot could finish his Washington Monument.  Not that we were thinking of them in those terms at the time. At the time, I was just thinking what a surprisingly relaxing morning it was.

(I checked online, and they seem to be sold out everywhere. I found a few sets on Amazon and eBay, but they’re outrageously expensive. My suggestion: Keep checking back. I found one good “Buy It Now” deal on eBay and snapped them up. They still weren’t cheap–they’ll be Grandma’s Bot birthday present.

And, as is evident from the last photo,  they’re even better when mixed with wooden fruit.

But I still wish it would stop raining.


Dispatch from Idaho: All Of Us Made It, Bearly

Saturday 8 a.m., Camelback Mountain. The great thing about being 43 inches tall instead of 41 inches tall is that you can see out the airplane windows.

I don’t recommend doing this on five hours of sleep, but we made it from Phoenix to Hailey, Idaho on Saturday morning without leaving anyone behind.

The leaving behind didn’t happen until later.

This was only the third airplane trip of over a dozen that Husbot has been able to join us on, which made things exponentially easier, once we got to the airport. There were some tense moments on the way to the airportl, when the route to the freeway that I’d planned was ignored…one good thing about being the only grownup in a travel party is that everyone else might be yelling as they run in the other direction with full diapers, but at least they don’t second-guess your mapping skills.)

When you leave the house at 6 a.m., dress them in their travel attire the night before. All the other passengers were jealous of their comfy duds.

After that, it was smooth sailing. On the thirty minute drive to Terminal 3, Husbot and I reviewed options in the absence of curbside check-in.

There was curb-side check-in.

And TSA has recently changed its shoe removal policy: children under the age of twelve can leave their dragon slippers on.

There was only a ten-minute wait at security.

There was a play area at our gate, which was right next to the Starbucks.

Once onboard, the popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, and duct tape kept Mbot busy until we could turn on our approved electronic devices.

The gods were smiling on us.

I wondered when I would pay.

On the leg from Salt Lake City to Hailey, both bots fell asleep on the plane.

We were met at the airport by Nanny, Poppy, and my sister (Aunt Susan, who has been featured in several posts, is noted for her long and imaginative phone messages (Hello, This is the Sister That You Don’t Have, Calling), her graphic descriptions of reflexology (Reflexology: The New Safe Sex?) and her creation of The Swim Jammie (Building the Future, One Accident at a Time.)

1 p.m.: Nanny's and Poppy's at last! It was all worth while.

We played in the snow with cousins.

At this point, I had been up for over sixteen hours. We drove north into Ketchum to the timeshare my cousin have generously loaned us for a week. We ate a delicious turkey pot pie that my mother had made for us. She’d also stocked the condo with every necessity from diapers and decaf to a toy basket filled with crayons, wooden blocks, and Hot Wheels. Everyone climbed back into pajamas. We watched The Aristocats and read a few books.

Gbot climbed into bed with Spruce Bear. Mbot climbed into bed with….”Mom? Where’s Junepbear?”

8 p.m.: alpenglow

I climbed back into the car and drove seven miles south to Nanny and Poppy’s, where Junepbear was shooting the breeze with a few stuffed of my brother’s stuffed animals, circa 1975.

But I was glad everything hadn’t gone completely as planned. The impromptu drive gave me almost forty minutes to myself in the car, and I got to see the last of the pink glow of winter sun on the peaks of the Boulder Mountains. (Really–I didn’t leave Junepbear behind on purpose.)

And now, it’s time to go play in the snow. Or take a nap?

The Funnest Thing About Flying When You Are Thirty Months Old

I must take my Trio.

We leave for Idaho tomorrow to visit my parents. We will fly on an airplane. The weeBots are excited. Because they have forgotten about the lady that comes around and hands them their own bag of peanuts, they are most excited about their own pieces of luggage.

Mbot’s carry-on is a Spiderman rollie bag. Gbot’s is, in the absence of a rollie bag of his own, my rollie bag. I’ll lug my computer over my shoulder. But, as with dogs that can carry their own food and water in little sideslung backpacks, the Bots are both, for the first time in the history of mankind, the North American continent, the Earth, the universe, and whatever may have come before, able to carry their own toys, goldfish, raisins, and spare pants by themselves. Or at least drag them. For the first time in all those things previously listed above, we will proceed through an airport without a stroller and car seats. I will hardly recognize us.

Because I had a lot to do today, in addition to packing (wash the dog, have spare house keys made, clean out the fridge, finish an essay, laundry, laundry, laundry, do the dishes, enjoy conversing with a Delta representative to change Husbot’s ticket to return earlier (ackk!), check in online, buy more kitty litter, plug in the DVD players, look for Gbot’s snowsuit again), I let the Bots entertain themselves this morning by packing their own rollie bags.I had asked them earlier this morning what they wanted to put in them.

“I will put Tesserwell in mine!” said Mbot without hesitation, and was momentarily tearous (a lovely new term, coined by a four year-old, I came across on, when I explained we couldn’t take the antique cat.

“I will put Nanny in mine!” announced Gbot. “And then she’ll be ALLLL done.”

“I can’t find Nanny. A train track will work.”

I was so tired just thinking about packing, having still not quite unpacked from last weekend in Chicago, that I briefly imagined just letting them pack by themselves.

“Mom said I can’t take the cat but she can’t say no to Junepbear!”

“They might just learn a lesson, when they get to snowy Idaho with only Buzz Lightyear, a big plastic dinosaur, two giant bears, and no clothes.” I Skype-messaged to my little brother.

His reply was, “HAH! I’m not sure who would be learning the most from that one….”

It’s true. None of us are ready for that. I’m still experiencing a few mental aftershocks from the realization that not only can both Bots now walk in the airport, but they can also walk in the right direction. (A skill set Gbot had not yet achieved last August.)

Everything’s the same, but everything’s different. Just as I was beginning to master air travel with toddlers, I’m being thrown into a whole new game. I’m sure I’ll be reporting back with many hard-won (heart-won?) travel tips for the 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 year-old set.

“I know I can get him in here. I know it.”

It’s very late now and, although I accomplished most of the things I mentioned seven paragraphs up, I still have to finish packing. By 6 a.m. tomorrow morning, like Nanny, I’ll be ALLLL done.

My brother would roll his eyes and laugh, “HAH!”, recalling my tendency to procrastinate.

Maybe Junepbear has grown, too.

At least some of us are growing up.

Are you?

Batman Beguines

With a nod to Cole Porter, Christian Bale, and Chris Nolan.

The mask and cape were abandoned early into the jingle-dance at Music Together yesterday. Note to self: Must have Morgan Freeman design a mask that won’t slip during big dance moves.

This post assumes prior knowledge of the 2005 movie, Batman Begins, which I attained Thursday night in Chicago. I actually went to the local library, withdrew movies, and took them to Chicago, rather than taking chances with cable or forking out the cash for pay-per-view. It took me two sessions, but I managed to watch the whole thing on Mbot’s DVD player.

Although I’m way too “Please can’t we just all hold hands and read Winne the Pooh again,” so the whole idea of Gotham City kind of gives me a yucky woozy feeling, I liked the movie. The acting was good, the lines were funny, the sets were cool, and finally, FINALLY, someone has adequately explained to me why anyone over the age of five–even anyone with quads like that–would wear that suit, and that frown. I won’t be watching it with the Bots anytime before 2020.

Cole Porter wrote the song, Begin the Beguine, and there’s a West Indian dance called the Beguine. The song is very complicated, and according to Our Wikiness, even Porter himself needed the sheet music to play it all the way through. So chances are, Mbot got it right when he improvised. But getting it right in our music class isn’t ever the point. The point is feeling comfortable in our clothes, and turning that frown upside down.

Check, check.

Just In: Mother Brings Scary Monster Back From Chicago

After claiming I hadn’t seen a scary monster there.

Henry Hochenwaller is not the scary monster. In fact, he holds the key to happiness.

I had been home from Chicago for less than an hour when I realized I had made a grave mistake. My mistake was pointed out to me by Gbot from the back seat. I had just dispensed the little gifts I’d brought home from my trip: two semi-matching key chains. I’d picked out semi-matching key chains, although the little voice in the back of my head was shouting for me to get two identical key chains. But there were so many cute ones to choose from. Note: Cute is a relative term and changes according to your age.

The Bots are crazy for keys. They watch me insert them into cars, doors, the filing cabinet, the post office box; they watch them magically start engines and open doors and drawers. I knew that these small tokens, from my new favorite place, The Art Institute of Chicago, would be a hit. There were many different styles of leatherette dudes to choose from. I chose carefully.

Not, it turns out, carefully enough.

I gave Mbot the purple one, because he likes purple, and it’s smiley, and he tends to get upset if something’s sad.

I gave Gbot the yellow one, because it was so cheerfully bright and because, through my forty-four year-old eyes, it has personality.

Before: Wilfred is, obviously, the scary monster. Wilfred does not hold the key to happiness.

Not, it turns out, the right personality.

I tried to convince Gbot that Wilfred was winking. He would have none of it. To a two-year old, a black X is not the symbol for a wink; he barely knows what a wink is. Come to think of it, for a forty year-old, a black X is not the symbol for a wink. A dash is. And a squiggly mouth is the symbol for fear or worse. Had I learned nothing from walking among the Masters of visual art for two hours?

Not, it turns out, the right things.

Here is an abbreviated transcription of the conversation from the back seat as we headed toward Grandma’s, each Bot gripping his new key chain:

Gbot:: “Wilfred’s crying.”

Mbot: “I hope that his eye opens.”

Mbot (encouragingly): “Gbot, that eye might open.”

Gbot: “I do not like mine anymore. Here you go, Mbot.”


Mbot: “I’m not giving you mine.”

Gbot, eyeing Henry Hochenwaller: “Can I just yook at it?”

Mbot: “Baby Gbot will look at it.”

Mbot, gazing happily at his key chain while Gbot held his out at arm’s length trying to give it away: “Purple is my best.”

Gbot: “Here ya go, Mbot.”

Me: “We will make him another eye. We will make him a smile. He will be so happy!”

We are scheduled to fly to Idaho in seventy-two hours to visit my parents. I needed to look for Gbot’s snowsuit. And unpack my suitcase from Chicago so I can repack it. I need to finish an essay before tomorrow’s deadline. I need to locate the source of that subtle but persistent odor of antique cat pee that I’d noticed since my return. But it was necessary surgery–even Aetna would have agreed. I found a needle and thread. By mistake I found the two pieces of felt that I knew I had somewhere. By serendipity I found a bead.

As I changed Wilfred’s outlook on life, it seemed obvious that he’d started out a bad choice. He was obviously an unhappy, one-eyed whack job. I was lucky Gbot hadn’t burst into tears. I might as well have made him watch Una Navidad Sin Pluto all over again.

This afternoon, I presented Gbot with the new and improved Wilfred.

Gbot: “He is not frowning anymore!”


Gbot: “He is good.”

Now I can pack.

After: Henry, Wilfred, and the rest of us can now get on with our lives. We're all very happy about it.